Public speaking: is it something of a delight, or an aspect you dread?
Public speaking isn’t something only politicians or the clergy carry out in their working week – it’s a common element in most careers nowadays. Even if you’re giving a quick pitch at a networking event, you’re speaking publicly – or when addressing your team in a group meeting. Unfortunately, many people fear public speaking in any form; the thought of everyone’s eyes on them can see people stutter, forget their point, or avoid the exercise altogether.
Given that today’s brands and personalities are expected to be media-savvy public faces, gaining the necessary skills and confidence to speak publicly is an investment in your career. Here are my top tips:
The more preparation you do beforehand, the more confident you’ll feel when you come to speak. Jot down the main points, outlining what you want/need to say, so that you’ve got a prompt with you, and also so that you stick to the necessary topic(s) without going off at a tangent.
Reading from a script can sound extremely stilted, so it’s important to only use your prompts as exactly that: reminders of the main issues and vital information.
Know your crowd
Understanding who you’re talking to is key. Though you’ll have an agenda of points to cover, how best can you relay the information that resonates with the audience you’ll be in front of? For instance, if giving a speech to school children, make it fun. Know whose ear you’re bending, why they should listen to you, and what would motivate them to find out more/act on your words. What are their needs?
It’s a big deal for you
Before this makes you bristle further, what I mean by this is that your speech is only the be all and end all to you, as the speaker. Whilst not detracting from the great points you’re undoubtedly going to make, it’s important to remember that your speech is not at the forefront of everyone else’s mind. Your dialogue will be competing with your audience’s thoughts about what they’re having for tea, their relationships, that deadline they’re up against….and a million and one other things.
Putting your speech into this kind of perspective should help remove the enormity of the task. Concentrate on your message, not on your delivery.
Failure isn’t crippling
Perfection is overrated. If you find yourself nervous, stumped for words, or you’ve wandered from your subject, be open with your audience. It will help lighten the mood and make you seem more human. Speaking from the heart is endearing; make a joke of things, but don’t feel that you’ve got to be a comedian. People will want you to do well; they won’t assume you’re a word-perfect world-class speaker. Help them to focus on what you’re saying rather than how you’re saying it.
Imagine how you’ll feel at the end of your speech if your audience is in rapture; envisage success and think positively – it will show.
Engage your audience
No one, least of all you, as speaker, wants to hear a droning monologue. Aim to interact with your audience, or engage with them on some level. Remember that less is more: unless you have LOTS to say on a subject (and if that’s the case, a series of speeches may be better), it’s better to stick to the main points and keep finer details for hand-outs or questions at the end. Don’t blind everyone with science; just impart what they need to know, no more. Ask questions; show interest in them, if you want them to take an interest in you.
Relax and breathe
Though it’s easy for me to say ‘relax’, using breathing exercises will help to calm your nerves. Focus only on your breath, in and out, in and out. Take deep, slow breaths and feel your anxiety escaping from your fingertips each time you breathe out. Consider your body language when speaking: stand up straight and project your voice. Both are great ways to show confidence.
Practice makes perfect
Talk to your bathroom mirror or the dog, or even film yourself before the day of the speech. Look at your body language and listen to the tone of your voice – can it be improved? What would you think of the talk if you were someone in the audience?
The more speaking you do, the easier it will get. Soon, it will become second nature.
Read my tips on confidence, and how to anchor inner strength so that you can conjure it up whenever necessary.
If you’d like details of Angela’s executive coaching services, contact her on 01302 220021, or email her via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to num_skyman at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image